Africa's written history starts with the rise of Egyptian civilization in the 4th millennium BC, and in succeeding centuries follows the development of the many diverse societies beyond the Nile Valley. From an early date this has involved critical interactions with non-African civilizations. These ranged from the Phoenicians, who established the merchant empire of Carthage, to the Romans, who colonised all of North Africa in the first century BC. Christianity began its spread through large areas of northern Africa at this time, reaching as far south as Kush and Ethiopia. In the late 7th century, North and East Africa were heavily influenced by the spread of Islam, which eventually led to the appearance of new cultures such as those of the Swahili people in East Africa, and powerful kingdoms including the Songhai Empire in the sub-saharan west. Farther south, Ghana, Oyo, and the Benin Empire developed with little influence from either Islam or Christianity. The rise of Islam led to an increase in the Arab slave trade that would culminate in the 19th century. This presaged the forced transport of African people and cultures to the New World in the Atlantic slave trade, and the beginning of the European scramble for Africa. Africa's colonial period lasted from the late 1800s until the advent of African independence movements in 1951, when Libya became the first former colony to become independent. Modern African history has been rife with revolutions and wars as well as the growth of modern African economies and democratization across the continent.
African history has been a challenge for researchers in the field of African studies due to the scarcity of written sources in large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Scholarly techniques such as the recording of oral history, historical linguistics, archeology and genetics have been crucial.
The next major evolutionary step occurred approximately 2 million years ago, with the advent of Homo habilis, thought to be the first species of hominid capable of making tools. This enabled H. habilis to begin eating meat, using his stone tools to scavenge kills made by other predators, and harvest carrion for their bones and marrow. In hunting, H. habilis was probably not capable of competing with large predators, and was still more prey than hunter, although he probably did steal eggs from nests, and may have been able to catch small game, and weakened larger prey (cubs and older animals).
Around 1.8 million years ago Homo erectus first appeared in the fossil record in Africa, but nearly simultaneously in the fossil record of the Caucuses (Eastern Europe). Some of the earlier representatives of this species were still fairly small brained and used primitive stone tools, much like H. habilis. The brain later grew in size and "H. erectus" eventually developed a more complex stone tool technology called the Acheulean. He was likely the first hunter. In addition Homo erectus mastered the art of making fire, and was the first hominid to leave Africa, colonizing the entire Old World, and later giving rise to Homo floresiensis. This is now contested by new theories suggesting that Homo georgicus, a Homo habilis descendant, was the first and most primitive hominid to ever live outside Africa. However, many scientists consider "Homo georgicus" to be an early and primitive member of the "Homo erectus" species.
The fossil record shows Homo sapiens living in southern and eastern Africa at least 100,000 and possibly 150,000 years ago. Around 40,000 years ago, their expansion out of Africa launched the colonization of our planet by modern human-beings. Their migration is indicated by linguistic, cultural and (increasingly) computer-analyzed genetic evidence (see also Cavalli-Sforza).
At the end of the Ice Age (guessed to have been around 10,500 BC), the Sahara had become a green fertile valley again, and its African populations returned from the interior and coastal highlands in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the warming and drying climate meant that by 5000 BC the Sahara region was becoming increasingly drier. The population trekked out of the Sahara region towards the Nile Valley below the Second Cataract where they made permanent or semi-permanent settlements. A major climatic recession occurred, lessening the heavy and persistent rains in Central and Eastern Africa. Since then dry conditions have prevailed in Eastern Africa.
People from the Great Lakes Region settled along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea to become the proto-Canaanites who dominated the lowlands between the Jordan River, the Mediterranean and the Sinai Desert. By the 1st millennium BC, iron-working had been introduced in Northern Africa and quickly began spreading across the Sahara into the northern parts of sub-Saharan Africa and by 500 BC, metalworking began to become commonplace in West Africa, possibly after being introduced by the Carthaginians. Iron-working was fully established by roughly 500 BC in areas of East and West Africa, though other regions didn't begin iron-working until the early centuries AD. Some copper objects from Egypt, North Africa, Nubia and Ethiopia have been excavated in West Africa dating from around 500 BC time period, suggesting that trade networks had been established by this time.
In about 3100 B.C. Egypt was united under the first known Narmer, who inaugurated the first of the 30 dynasties into which Egypt's ancient history is divided: the Old, Middle Kingdoms and the New Kingdom. The pyramids at Giza (near Cairo), which were built in the Fourth dynasty, testify to the power of the pharaonic religion and state. The Great Pyramid, the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops), is the only surviving monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ancient Egypt reached the peak of its power, wealth, and territorial extent in the period called the New Empire (1567–1085 B.C.).
The importance of Ancient Egypt to the development of the rest of Africa has been debated. The earlier generation of Western academia generally saw Egypt as a Mediterranean civilization with little impact on the rest of Africa. Recent scholarship however, has began to discredit this notion. Some have argued that various early Egyptians like the Badarians probably migrated northward from Nubia, while others see a wide-ranging movement of peoples across the breadth of the Sahara before the onset of desiccation. Whatever may be the origins of any particular people or civilization, however, it seems reasonably certain that the Predynastic communities of the Nile valley were essentially indigenous in culture, drawing little inspiration from sources outside the continent during the several centuries directly preceding the onset of historical times... (Robert July, Pre-Colonial Africa, 1975, p. 60-61)
Just prior to Saharan desertification, the communities that developed south of Egypt, in what is now modern day Sudan, were full participants in the Neolithic revolution and lived a settled to semi-nomadic lifestyle with domesticated plants and animals. Megaliths found at Nabta Playa are examples of probably the world's first known archaeoastronomy devices, out dating Stonehenge by some 1000 years. This complexity, as observed at Nabta Playa, and expressed by different levels of authority within the society there, likely formed the basis for the structure of both the Neolithic society at Nabta and the Old Kingdom of Egypt. The early A-group peoples, whom inhabited today's northern Sudan and were contemporary with pre-dynastic Naquadan Upper Egypt, were responsible for what may have been one of the oldest known kingdoms in the Nile valley, which the Egyptians called "Ta-seti" (Land of the Bow). Their demise with the onset of Dynastic Egypt, later gave rise to such Kingdoms as Kush, Kerma and Meroe whom collectively comprised what is sometimes referred to as Nubia. The last of the kingdoms would see their final devastating blow by a leader of a rising Kingdom in Ethiopia, Ezana of Axum, effectively bringing to an end the classical Nubian civilizations.
Separated by the 'sea of sand', the Sahara, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa have been linked by fluctuating trans-Saharan trade routes. Phoenician, Greek and Roman history of North Africa can be followed in entries for the Roman Empire and for its individual provinces in the Maghreb, such as Mauretania, Africa, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, Aegyptus etc.
Countries bordering the Mediterranean were colonised and settled by the Phoenicians before 1000 BC. Carthage, founded about 814 BC, speedily grew into a city without rival in the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians subdued the Berber tribes who, then as now, formed the bulk of the population, and became masters of all the habitable region of North Africa west of the Great Syrtis, and found in commerce a source of immense prosperity.
By the 1st millennium BC, iron working had been introduced in Northern Africa and quickly began spreading across the Sahara into the northern parts of sub-Saharan Africa and by 500 BC, metalworking began to become commonplace in West Africa, possibly after being introduced by the Carthaginians. Iron working was fully established by roughly 500 BC in areas of East and West Africa, though other regions didn't begin iron working until the early centuries AD. Some copper objects from Egypt, North Africa, Nubia and Ethiopia have been excavated in West Africa dating from around 500 BC time period, suggesting that trade networks had been established by this time.
Greeks founded the city of Cyrene in Ancient Libya around 631 BC. Cyrenaica became a flourishing colony, though being hemmed in on all sides by absolute desert it had little or no influence on inner Africa. The Greeks, however, exerted a powerful influence in Egypt. To Alexander the Great the city of Alexandria owes its foundation (332 BC), and under the Hellenistic dynasty of the Ptolemies attempts were made to penetrate southward, and in this way was obtained some knowledge of Ethiopia.
The three powers of Cyrenaica, Egypt and Carthage were eventually supplanted by the Romans. After centuries of rivalry with Rome, Carthage finally fell in 146 BC. Within little more than a century Egypt and Cyrene had become incorporated in the Roman empire. Under Rome the settled portions of the country were very prosperous, and a Latin strain was introduced into the land. Though Fezzan was occupied by them, the Romans elsewhere found the Sahara an impassable barrier. Nubia and Ethiopia were reached, but an expedition sent by the emperor Nero to discover the source of the Nile ended in failure. The utmost extent of Mediterranean geographical knowledge of the continent is shown in the writings of Ptolemy (2nd century), who knew of or guessed the existence of the great lake reservoirs of the Nile, of trading posts along the shores of the Indian Ocean as far south as Rhapta in modern Tanzania, and had heard of the river Niger.
Interaction between Asia, Europe and North Africa during this period was significant, major effects include the spread of classical culture around the shores of the Mediterranean; the continual struggle between Rome and the Berber tribes; the introduction of Christianity throughout the region, and the cultural effects of the churches in Tunisia, Egypt and Ethiopia. The classical era drew to a close with the invasion and conquest of Rome's African provinces by the Vandals in the 5th century. Power passed back in the following century to the Byzantine Empire.
Muslim Arabs conquered northern Africa from the Red Sea to the Atlantic and continued into Spain beginning with the invasion of Egypt in the 7th century. Throughout North Africa Christianity nearly disappeared, except in Egypt where the Coptic Church remained strong partly because of the influence of Ethiopia. Some argue that when the Arabs had converted Egypt they attempted to wipe out the Copts, Ethiopia, who also practiced Coptic Christianity, warned the Muslims that if they attempted to wipe out the Copts, Ethiopia would decrease the flow of Nile water from getting to Egypt. This was because Lake Tana, which was in Ethiopia was the source of the Blue Nile which is flows into the greater Nile. Some believe this to be one of the reasons that the Coptic minorities still exist today.
Ethiopia had a distinct, ancient culture with an intermittent history of contact with Eurasia after the diaspora of hominids out of Africa. It preserved a unique language, culture and crop system. The crop system is adapted to the northern highlands and does not partake of any other area's crops. The most famous member of this crop system is coffee, but one of the more useful plants is sorghum, a dry-land grain; teff is also endemic to the region.
Historically, the Swahili could be found as far north as the Juba valley in southern Somalia, and as far south as Rovuma River in Mozambique. Although once believed to be the descendants of Persian colonists, the ancient Swahili are now recognized by most historians, historical linguists, and archaeologists as a Bantu people who had sustained and important interactions with Muslim merchants beginning in the late 7th and early 8th century AD.
Monomotapa was a medieval kingdom (c. 1250-1629) which used to stretch between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers of Southern Africa in the modern states of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It enjoys great fame for the ruins at its old capital of Great Zimbabwe.
In 1487, Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to reach the southernmost tip of Africa. In 1652, a victualling station was established at the Cape of Good Hope by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the slowly-expanding settlement was a Dutch possession. Great Britain seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1795 ostensibly to stop it falling into the hands of the French, but also seeking to use Cape Town in particular as a stop on the route to Australia and India. It was later returned to the Dutch in 1803, but soon afterwards the Dutch East India Company declared bankruptcy, and the British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806.
The Zulu Kingdom (1817-1879) was a Southern African state in what is now South Africa. The small kingdom gained world fame during and after the Anglo-Zulu War, part of the South African Wars (1879-1915).
From the 7th century onward Islamic religious and cultural influence replaced that of Christianity across much of northern Africa. Only in Egypt under Arab rule, and where independence was maintained in Ethiopia, did Christianity survive in any strength. In this period Islamic influence spread slowly south toward sub-saharan kingdoms like the Songhai Empire, and along the Indian Ocean coast, although it never penetrated the Benin Empire or the other civilisations of the forest-belt south of the savannah.
In the 11th century there was a sizable Arab immigration to North Africa, resulting in a large absorption of Berber culture. Even before this the Berbers had generally adopted the speech and religion of their conquerors. Arab influence and the Islamic religion thus became indelibly stamped on northern Africa. Together they spread southward across the Sahara. They also became firmly established along the eastern seaboard, where Arabs, Persians and Indians planted flourishing colonies, such as Mombasa, Malindi and Sofala. In this they played a maritime and commercial role analogous to that filled in earlier centuries by the Carthaginians on the northern seaboard. Until the 14th century, Europe and the Arabs of North Africa were both ignorant of these eastern cities and states.
Under the early Arab dynasties, Moorish culture had attained a high degree of sophistication, while the spirit of adventure and the proselytizing zeal of the followers of Islam led to a considerable extension of their knowledge of the continent. The camel, first introduced into Africa by the Persian conquerors of Egypt in 500 BC, enabled the Arabs to traverse the desert more easily. In this way Senegambia and the middle Niger regions were drawn into the Islamic sphere of influence, becoming key centres of the trans-Saharan trade and for the exchange of ideas.
For a time the African Muslim conquests in southern Europe had virtually made of the Mediterranean a Muslim lake, but the expulsion in the 11th century of the Saracens from Sicily and southern Italy by the Normans was followed by European attacks on Tunisia and Tripoli. Somewhat later a busy trade with the African coastlands, and especially with Egypt, was developed by Venice, Pisa, Genoa and other cities of North Italy. By the end of the 15th century Spain had expelled its Muslim rulers, but even while the Moors remained in Granada, Portugal was strong enough to carry the war into Africa. In 1415 a Portuguese force captured the citadel of Ceuta on the Moorish coast. From that time onward Portugal repeatedly interfered in the affairs of Morocco, while Spain acquired ports in Algeria and Tunisia.
Portugal, however, suffered a crushing defeat in 1578 at al Kasr al Kebir. The Moors were led by Abd el Malek I of the then recently established Saadi Dynasty. The Barbary states, under the influence of Moors expelled from Spain, degenerated into communities of pirates, and under Turkish influence civilization and commerce declined. The story of these states from the beginning of the 16th century to the third decade of the 19th century, is largely made up of piratical exploits on the one hand and of ineffectual reprisals on the other.
Following the breakup of Mali a local leader named Sonni Ali (1464 -1492) founded the Songhai Empire in the region of middle Niger and the western Sudan and took control of the trans-Saharan trade. Sonni Ali seized Timbuktu in 1468 and Jenne in 1473, building his regime on trade revenues and the cooperation of Muslim merchants. His successor Askiya Mohammad Ture (1493 - 1528) made Islam the official religion, built mosques, and brought Muslim scholars, including al-Maghili (d.1504), the founder of an important tradition of Sudanic African Muslim scholarship, to Gao. By the 11th century some Hausa states - such as Kano, jigawa,Katsina, and Gobir - had developed into walled towns engaging in trade, servicing caravans, and the manufacture of goods. Until the 15th century these small states were on the periphery of the major Sudanic empires of the era, paying tribute to Songhai to the west and Kanem-Borno to the east.
Arab progress southward was stopped by the broad belt of dense forest, stretching almost across the continent somewhat south of 10° North latitude, which barred their advance much as the Sahara had proved an obstacle to their predecessors. The rain forest cut them off from knowledge of the Guinea coast and of all Africa beyond. One of the regions which was the last to come under Arab rule was that of Nubia, which had been controlled by Christians up to the 14th century.
In the forested regions of the West African coast, independent kingdoms grew up with little influence from the Muslim north. Ife, historically the first of these Yoruba city-states, established government under a priestly king, or Oni. Ife was noted as the religious and cultural centre of the region, and for its unique naturalistic tradition of bronze sculpture. The Ife model of government was adapted at Oyo, where a member of its ruling dynasty controlled several smaller city-states. By the 15th century the Oyo Empire had cut off the mother city from the savanna. Yorubaland established a community in the Edo-speaking area east of Ife at the beginning of the 14th century. This developed into the Benin Empire. By the 15th century Benin had become an independent trading power, blocking Ife's access to the coastal ports. Benin, which may have housed 100,000 inhabitants at its height, spread over twenty-five square kilometres, and was enclosed by three concentric rings of earthworks. By the late 15th century Benin was in contact with Portugal. At its apogee in the 16th and 17th centuries, Benin encompassed parts of southeastern Yorubaland and the western Igbo.
Portuguese ships rounded Cape Bojador in 1434, Cape Verde in 1445, and by 1480 the whole Guinea coast was known to the Portuguese. In 1482 Diogo Cão reached the mouth of the Congo, the Cape of Good Hope was rounded by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488, and in 1498 Vasco da Gama, after having rounded the Cape, sailed up the east coast, touched at Sofala and Malindi, and went from there to India. Portugal claimed sovereign rights wherever its navigators landed, but these were not exercised in the extreme south of the continent.
The Guinea coast, as the nearest to Europe, was first exploited. Numerous European forts and trading stations were established, the earliest being São Jorge da Mina (Elmina), begun in 1482. The chief commodities dealt in were slaves, gold, ivory and spices. The European discovery of America (1492) was followed by a great development of the slave trade, which, before the Portuguese era, had been an overland trade almost exclusively confined to Muslim Africa. The lucrative nature of this trade and the large quantities of alluvial gold obtained by the Portuguese drew other nations to the Guinea coast. English mariners went there as early as 1553, and they were followed by Spaniards, Dutch, French, Danish and other adventurers. Colonial supremacy along the coast passed in the 17th century from Portugal to the Netherlands and from the Dutch in the 18th and 19th centuries to France and Britain. The whole coast from Senegal to Lagos was dotted with forts and "factories" of rival European powers, and this international patchwork persisted into the 20th century although all the West African hinterland had become either French or British territory.
Southward from the mouth of the Congo to the region of Damaraland (in what is present-day Namibia), the Portuguese, from 1491 onward, acquired influence over the inhabitants, and in the early part of the 16th century through their efforts Christianity was largely adopted in the Kongo Empire. An incursion of tribes from the interior later in the same century broke the power of this semi-Christian state, and Portuguese activity was transferred to a great extent farther south, São Paulo de Loanda (present-day Luanda) being founded in 1576. Before Angolan independence in 1975, the sovereignty of Portugal over this coastal region, except for the mouth of the Congo, had been only once challenged by a European power, the Dutch, from 1640 to 1648 in which Portugal lost control of the seaports.
The Atlantic slave trade was a later development, but would eventually become far greater and have a much bigger impact. Increasing penetration of the Americas by the Portuguese, Spaniards, English, French, Dutch (among others) created a huge demand for labor in Brazil, Guianas, Caribbean and North America. Workers were needed for agriculture, mining and other tasks. To meet this new demand, a trans-Atlantic slave trade developed. Slaves purchased in those West African regions known to Europeans as the Slave Coast, Gold Coast, and Côte d'Ivoire were often the unfortunate by-product of fighting between rival African states. Powerful African kings on the Bight of Biafra might sell their captives internally or exchange them with European slave traders for trade goods such as firearms, rum, fabrics and seed grain. It should be noted that European traders also conducted their own, quite independent, slave raids.
Considerable changes had meanwhile been made in other parts of the continent, the most notable being the invasion of Algiers by France in 1830. This action put an end to the independent Barbary states, a major obstacle to Frances Mediterranean strategy. Egyptian authority continued its southward expansion with consequent additions to European the knowledge of the Nile. The city of Zanzibar, on the island of that name rapidly attained importance. Accounts of a vast inland sea, and the "discovery" in 1840–1848, by the missionaries Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johann Rebmann, of the snow-clad mountains of Kilimanjaro and Kenya, stimulated in Europe the desire for further knowledge.
By the middle of the 19th century, Protestant missions were carrying on active missionary work on the Guinea coast, in South Africa and in the Zanzibar dominions. It was being conducted among people of whom Europeans knew little.In many instances missionaries turned explorer or became agents of trade and colonialism. One of the first to attempt to fill up the remaining blank spaces in the European map was David Livingstone, who had been engaged since 1840 in missionary work north of the Orange. In 1849 Livingstone crossed the Kalahari Desert from south to north and reached Lake Ngami, and between 1851 and 1856 he traversed the continent from west to east, making known the great waterways of the upper Zambezi. During these journeyings Livingstone "discovered", November 1855, the famous Victoria Falls, so named after the Queen of the United Kingdom. These falls are called Mosi-oa-Tunya by Africans. In 1858–1864 the lower Zambezi, the Shire and Lake Nyasa were explored by Livingstone, Nyasa having been first reached by the confidential slave of Antonio da Silva Porto, a Portuguese trader established at Bihe in Angola, who crossed Africa during 1853–1856 from Benguella to the mouth of the Rovuma. A prime goal for explorers was to locate the source of the River Nile. Expeditions by Burton and Speke (1857–1858) and Speke and Grant (1863) located Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria. It was eventually proved to be the latter from which the Nile flowed.
Henry Morton Stanley, who had in 1871 succeeded in finding and succoring Livingstone, started again for Zanzibar in 1874, and in one of the most memorable of all exploring expeditions in Africa circumnavigated Victoria Nyanza and Tanganyika, and, striking farther inland to the Lualaba, followed that river down to the Atlantic Ocean—reached in August 1877—and proved it to be the Congo.
Explorers were also active in other parts of the continent. Southern Morocco, the Sahara and the Sudan were traversed in many directions between 1860 and 1875 by Gerhard Rohlfs, Georg Schweinfurth and Gustav Nachtigal. These travellers not only added considerably to geographical knowledge, but obtained invaluable information concerning the people, languages and natural history of the countries in which they sojourned. Among the discoveries of Schweinfurth was one that confirmed the Greek legends of the existence beyond Egypt of a "pygmy race". But the first western discoverer of the pygmies of Central Africa was Paul du Chaillu, who found them in the Ogowe district of the west coast in 1865, five years before Schweinfurth's first meeting with them; du Chaillu having previously, as the result of journeys in the Gabon region between 1855 and 1859, made popular in Europe the knowledge of the existence of the gorilla, perhaps the gigantic ape seen by Hanno the Carthaginian, and whose existence, up to the middle of the 19th century, was thought to be as legendary as that of the Pygmies of Aristotle.
The causes which led to the partition of Africa can be found in the economic and political state of western Europe at the time. Germany, recently united under Prussian rule as the result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, was seeking new outlets for her energies, new markets for her growing industries, and with the markets, colonies.
Germany was the last country to enter into the race to acquire colonies, and when Bismarck—the German Chancellor —acted, Africa was the only field left to exploit. South America was widely considered the fiefdom of the United States based on the Monroe Doctrine, while Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain had already divided much of Asia and the rest of the world between themselves.
Part of the reason Germany began to expand into the colonial sphere at this time, despite Bismarck's lack of enthusiasm for the idea, was a shift in the world view of the Prussian governing elite. Indeed, European elites as a whole began to view the world as a finite place, one in which only the strong would predominate. The influence of social Darwinism was deep, encouraging a view of the world as essentially characterized by zero-sum relationships.
For different reasons the war of 1870 was also the starting-point for France in the building up of a new colonial empire. In her endeavour to regain the position lost in that war France had to look beyond Europe. To the two causes mentioned must be added others. Britain and Portugal, when they found their interests threatened, bestirred themselves, while Italy also conceived it necessary to become an African power.
It was not, however, the action of any of the great powers of Europe which precipitated the struggle. This was brought about by the projects of Léopold II, king of the Belgians. The discoveries of Livingstone, Stanley and others had aroused especial interest among two classes of men in western Europe, one the manufacturing and trading class, which saw in Central Africa possibilities of commercial exploitation, the other the philanthropic and missionary class, which beheld in the newly discovered lands millions of "savages" to Christianize and "civilize". The possibility of utilizing both these classes in the creation of a vast private estate, of which he should be the head, formed itself in the mind of Léopold II even before Stanley had navigated the Congo. The king's action proved successful; but no sooner was the nature of his project understood in Europe than it provoked the rivalry of France and Germany, and thus the international struggle was begun.
No African countries were consulted during the partitioning of Africa. An "International treaty" was signed that disregarded the ethnic, social and economic composition of the people that lived in that area. This was to resurface years later, as ethnic or "tribal" conflict after the African countries gained their independence.
The European powers set up a variety of different administrations in Africa at this time, with different ambitions and degrees of power. In some areas, parts of British West Africa for example, colonial control was tenuous and intended for simple economic extraction, strategic power, or as part of a long term development plan.
In other areas Europeans were encouraged to settle, creating settler states in which a European minority came to dominate society. Settlers only came to a few colonies in sufficient numbers to have a strong impact. British settler colonies included British East Africa, now Kenya, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, later Zambia and Zimbabwe, and South Africa, which already had a significant population of European settlers, the Boers.
In the Second Boer War, between the British Empire and the two Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic), the Boers unsuccessfully resisted absorption in to the British Empire.
France planned to settle Algeria and eventually incorporate it into the French state as an equal to the European provinces. Its proximity across the Mediterranean allowed plans of this scale.
In most areas colonial administrations did not have the manpower or resources to fully administer the territory and had to rely on local power structures to help them. Various factions and groups within the societies exploited this European requirement for their own purposes, attempting to gain a position of power within their own communities by cooperating with Europeans. One aspect of this struggle included what Terence Ranger has termed the "invention of tradition." In order to legitimize their own claims to power in the eyes of both the colonial administrators, and their own people, people would essentially manufacture "traditional" claims to power, or ceremonies. As a result many societies were thrown into disarray by the new order.
During World War I the British and German Empires battled on several occasions, the most notable being the Battle of Tanga, and a sustained guerrilla campaign by the German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.
During this era a sense of local patriotism or nationalism took deeper root among African intellectuals and politicians. Some of the inspiration for this movement came from the First World War in which European countries had relied on colonial troops for their own defense. Many in Africa realized their own strength with regard to the colonizer for the first time. At the same time, some of the mystique of the "invincible" European was shattered by the barbarities of the war. However, in most areas European control remained relatively strong during this period.
The decolonisation of Africa started with Libya in 1951. (Although Liberia, South Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia were already independent.) Many countries followed in the 50s and 60s, with a peak in 1960 with independence of a large part of French West Africa. Most of the remaining countries gained independence throughout the 1960s, although some colonizers (Portugal in particular) were reluctant to relinquish sovereignty, resulting in bitter wars of independence which lasted for a decade or more. The last African countries to gain formal independence were Guinea-Bissau from Portugal in 1974, Mozambique from Portugal in 1975, Angola from Portugal in 1975, Djibouti from France in 1977, Zimbabwe from United Kingdom in 1980, and Namibia from South Africa in 1990. Eritrea later split off from Ethiopia in 1993.
Because many cities were founded, enlarged and renamed by the Europeans, after independence many place names (for example Stanleyville, Léopoldville, Rhodesia) were renamed: see historical African place names for these.
The early 1990s also signaled the start of major clashes between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi. In 1994 this culminated in the Rwandan Genocide, a conflict in which over one million people were murdered.
Egypt was involved in several wars against Israel, and was allied with other Arab countries. The first was right after the Israel was founded, in 1947. Egypt went to war again in 1967 and lost the Sinai Peninsula to Israel. They went to war yet again in 1973. In 1979 Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords, which gave back the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for the recognition of Israel. The accords are still in effect today. In 1981 Sadat was assassinated by an Islamist for signing the accords.